Blunt Talk: Why won’t it work for me?

Most of what I write on here are some what related to my writing. I am realizing that I am removing a vast portion of my personal internal battles, discussions, and concerns that makes me all around….more personable with you.

Here’s a big Blunt Talk conversation: I have been struggling to lose weight. I don’t feel happy in my own skin. It’s frustrating to look at other people that easily walk around in a trim healthy body, eating pizza and carbs and sugar without a worry about it. No this isn’t me saying this because of what society tells me I need to look like, I don’t feel COMFORTABLE in my own body. If I felt good and comfortable being a size 12 then great! If I was a size 20 and happy as a clam, great! But I am not comfortable and it has nothing to do with the mindset of what people in the world find beautiful. It’s not about being beautiful either. I don’t feel comfortable. That is the problem.

This is a strange thing to feel. I sit down and I feel like I have to much weight around my middle, I can feel my thighs touch way too much when I walk in a dress. I know you must be thinking, “Jess, you aren’t obese, what are you talking about?” Funny you should say that. According to a very popular health site, for my height and my weight I am considered overweight. One the other hand, I don’t feel like I am seen as an overweight person. Perhaps I hide it well, or perhaps for typical standards of what over weight is, I am not considered that. I however, don’t care about any of that. I just feel uncomfortable.

Here’s the thing. I am one of those people that likes to know how things work. I was the annoying student in math class that would ask why to every equation. “Yes, but why does it work like that? I don’t want to just know how to do the equation, I want to know how it works!” My whole life I was told to do cardio, eat a balanced diet, and stay away from simple sugar. Here’s the problem though, SUGAR IS IN EVERYTHING practically. What doesn’t work for me is the 1 hour of treadmill cardio every day. It did absolutely nothing for me. And the all around healthy balanced diet….I gained weight! I know, people will say, “Well you did it wrong then.” Yep, that could be it. But that isn’t my point. My point is that everyone is different and you have to figure out what works best for you! I haven’t yet figured this out….and I am almost 32 years old. I still have no idea how my metabolism works and why when everyone else is losing weight when we are on a diet and work out plan, I seem to gain weight. No….it’s not just gaining muscle…I gain FAT! I hate when people say that. I have been working out pretty consistently (at least 3-5 days a week) for the last year and a half. There is no “you are in the gaining muscle” phase that will keep me from losing weight. I have fat that I need to lose while I continue to gain the muscle. That is the fact.

So in a mindset of everyone is different, I have been searching relentlessly for what works for me. I stumbled onto the keto diet and felt that I should give it a go. I didn’t do enough research though….mistake #1 and I started gaining weight again.  I was dumbfounded. Everyone else I have heard that goes on a keto diet loses fat like melting butter in a pan….one minute it’s there and the next it’s gone! Not for me. I put on weight, and I feel it. Remember, not everyone is the same. And for me, I need to adjust to suit my needs that will allow me to live a healthy life. Mistake #2, I kept drinking alcohol 1-2 times per week. BIG. FAT. NO NO!

What I honestly learned in the last few months of trying a new diet and struggling to see what will work:
1) We have to give up what we love in order to gain a lifestyle that we never had before. I have always had a lot of fruit, alcohol, coffee and desserts in my life. And I expected a change in my life if I kept all the things I wanted while working really hard for the things I had never had before. This is a problem. I can’t succeed without sacrifice, and it’s something that is really hard to come to terms with.
2) Not everyone can handle carbs. Not everyone can eat dairy. Not everyone can eat meat. We are all different and tailoring your diet to fit your needs is probably the hardest things any of us can do (unless you are a trained dietitian….and even then it’s a game to see what will work). We eat food in hopes that we will get the nutrients and benefits from it like that one person on the amazon review page did…but it doesn’t always work that way. Just because they were able to see results, doesn’t mean you will too. It takes a lot of trial and error…more error than results in my personal opinion but when you do find it, it will be like gold!
3) Don’t give up. Whatever you do, don’t give up. I know it’s hard, I know you feel like you have no other options and there is nothing you can do that will work, but trust me….giving up is not the option.

I am struggling with my own day to day issues, but we all have our things that keep us from feeling like we are on top of our own world. Don’t let your down times keep you back from reaching your goals. You can do this, and no matter how hard it is, it will be worth it when you achieve them.

One day, I will be sitting on a beach or beside a pool wearing a bikini and I will think to myself….I worked so hard for this. And I will sip on my bubbly water and crunch on some celery knowing that hard work and determination is what got me there.

What are your goals and struggles to obtain them? I say, it’s always easier to keep going when you have an army of support.

Blunt Talk: Late Night Pondering

There is something very sexy and alluring about a smiling man wearing a suit in a black and white photo. Not a color photo, that’s just nice, maybe even a bit boring. Black and white, and suddenly you have a breath taking battle. Dramatic slices of light battling against the forever strong shadow. Perhaps it’s the contrast. The blatant truth of light and dark. It’s intriguing, it’s alluring, and hot damn it’s sexy!

Red Sparrow: An Upfront Book Review

I don’t often review or give my opinion on books that I am reading, or poems I find moving but I do feel that I read enough to start doing this for you…my lovely readers 🙂 Not so much to rant about my opinion, though I might if something really pinches a nerve in my system. More because I want to share when I find things that move me, when I find amazing artwork in the manipulation of words that I can’t help but share them.

Right now I am listening to (because I live in Los Angeles and listening to books is the only way I can “read” when trying to manage the traffic and the hum of city life) Red Sparrow because I’m one of those people that detest seeing a movie before I read the book. I feel as though there are few…and I mean very few….movies that outshine the book. I can discuss that another day.

I am listening to Red Sparrow, written by Jason Matthews read by Jeremy Bobb. I have to say, Jeremy’s voice leaves a lot to be desired in terms of engagement, but the more I listen to him the more his tone matches the mood of the story. I don’t mean that in a bad way at all, his voice succinctly matches the stark straight line of the implication of danger within this book. It reminds me of the serious moments in The Iron Druid Chronicles (another book series I am in love with). Luke Daniels’s (I have such a crush on his voice!) voice would hit this lower octave that just screamed danger and intrigue. Red Sparrow has danger and intrigue in spades.

I’m not sure how Jennifer Lawrence will play out this role, or if she will fill the shoes of the character Dominika Egorova, but I am excited to see how she pulls it off. I am a lover of Jennifer Lawrence ever since Winter’s Bone. Yes, I do believe she was a little flat and uninteresting in The Hunger Games but let’s be honest, so was Katniss in the book. If you have little to work with (Bella Swan….amirite?!) then I would say there is little to do to make it a moving work of art.

Red Sparrow has my ear, and I won’t lie, it’s quite dense and yet easy to listen to. I was in the store listening to Chapter three while I was in the self check out line and I caught myself standing there like an idiot as Matthews wove an intricate ladder of importance within the Russian intelligence agency. Names and positions flew like crazy and then I realized I had been standing there for three minutes without moving and the woman in line behind me buying shampoo was shooting sparks of annoyance in my direction. The story and the set up of Red Sparrow is great, but wait until you get into the meat of the story.

This is a good one, and I’m not even done with the book yet! If you had any questions on if you should read this, the best note is that I am 7 chapters in and needing to tell you that this is MOST DEFINITELY a book to read before you see the movie. I have a sneaking suspicion that like most dense novels, a lot of the opening and elegance of creation of the characters will be obliterated in the movie to get to good stuff. I don’t really care, I want to see this on the big screen to see the beautiful execution of this intense mystery thriller.

I have to say also, that this isn’t my typical go to genre for a good read, but I couldn’t help myself. I did fall in love with the Jason Bourne series and ever since then I have found a good spy mystery thriller to be the type of adventure that is right up my ally.

UPDATES:

This book is indeed quite dense and incredibly described. There are so many details about the CIA, the Russian secret service, all linked and tied together in a jumbled mess of who knows what and who will be caught. It’s a slow burn, but a good one. I highly recommend this book when you have serious attention to give. It’s not a great one for random reading. I found I’d forget where I was at times and had to reread if I was slightly distracted. Also the Russian names are a bit hard to follow (then again I am listening to this audio book, so that makes a difference). Overall this is a great spy thriller, and the end is a great wrap up of the details.

I Need More Time

I have to say that if there is one thing I am struggling with the most right now is finding enough time. I have a very intense schedule, though I am sure it could get worse, I am absolutely struggling with it right now. Here are the things I am TRYING to complete within my week:

  • Meal prep for the week
  • Working out 5 days a week
  • Work – about 50 hours per week on average
  • Dinner prep at night with my husband
  • 1 night / week with my girl to get her caught up on West World and Game of thrones
  • Writing book 2 of my book series
  • Sending a query to literary agents 3x per week
  • sleep
  • quality time with my husband
  • quality time with my kids
  • quality time with my dog
  • cleaning the house
  • every day hygiene
  • friends time to ensure I maintain good friendships

That is a good amount to fit into a week. And I manage to for the most part but there are times that I feel absolutely exhausted by the end of the week. There are additional things that shove into my time and demand my attention. It feels impossible at times.

Right now I think that there is a limit for balance. I am trying to balance sleep/ working out and meal prep/ quality people time/ work. Which makes me frustrated when I want to work on my book or engage readers on my blog.  I am trying to just make more time….which for the most part means less sleep. And I LOVE sleep.

I am in a tunnel and there is no extra space to push more into my day. Does anyone else have this problem? I feel like I am absolutely struggling with everything.

Outside of the sad face moment here, St. Patrick’s Day yesterday was AMAZING! And I think I might have had more food last night that the last two thanksgivings. I am so not joking. This was just the beginning to the evening. Yes that is Lucky Charm pie, and yes it was so worth the 2 hours it took me to make. YUMMY!

Did anyone else have an incredible St Patrick’s Day?!

 

How the heck do I write a synopsis!?

Last night I spent pretty much….all night working on my synopsis. It was one of those nights where I knew I wouldn’t be able to get it perfect but I needed to get it done. This is a great exercise even if it doesn’t get me the agent.

I started with a 1,300 word synopsis and wanted to cry thinking, “How am I going to get this down to 700 words?!” It was 10pm, I had to wake up at 7am. I had 10 hours to complete this. Ha! That’s hilarious, because I am one of those that needs SLEEP!

sleeping anna

By 1 am I was at 698 words. I couldn’t believe it. I have a synopsis. Is this the final synopsis, no probably not. But I am making progress and that is what counts right now. Tomorrow I am going to be sending my manuscript and synopsis to the agent and will cross my fingers that I will hear back from her.

Maybe I will, maybe I won’t. Either way, this has been a very exciting moment in my my writing life. One I will never forget, one that will keep me going!

Now….perhaps I should stop making changes to the edit. Hehehe….

A Positive Query AND Pie…how did I get so lucky!?

I’m going to start this post with a happy dance and a major high five.

Happy-dance

giphy

Peeps of the blogging world, I FINALLY HAD AN AGENT ASK TO READ MY MANUSCRIPT! None of that: thanks but no thanks. And not a single word of: I’m just not looking for your content at this time. I got a LEGIT positive request to read my manuscript.

I can’t believe it!!! Now there is no saying she will like it, I mean she could get halfway through it and think, “well crap, this is not at all what I want to work on right now.” But you know what, I don’t even care. I am so over the moon that I have a solid query and someone responded to it.

I do have to send a shout out to John Fox for posting the list of literary agents looking for new work, and my friend Shirley for forwarding me his blog with this list of names.

I won’t stop here though, I have 9 other agents to query. I won’t stop until I land an agent. I won’t stop until I succeed!

And now pie……

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I Just Can’t Stop Adding To It!

I realize the saying “An artists work is never done, the project is only every abandoned,” because in truth I feel that my first manuscript isn’t completed. Not that it isn’t polished, and in my personal opinion, damn close to being done. It’s more that I keep thinking, “But I could add this, and it would make it better!”

After re-listening to Game of Thrones on audio book, and having just finished reading The Gender Games, I am realizing that I do indeed have more to say in my first book. I have more world to build and more details to impart to the readers. I have heard several times from several different people, “Stop it Jess, you have written a good book. You need to move on to book 2!” And I have, so I can officially tell those people to shut it. Ha!

But….I am still tweaking and working on adding more into book 1. I can’t help it! There is just…more to say.

Having said all of this, I will admit that I have started writing a new chapter. And as much as it’s a bit difficult to work in I do really believe that it will be worth the effort to add in some additional “world building” scenes.

Now, all of THAT being said I also just submitted my work to 5 more agents. I feel like I am playing a game of time. I will keep writing, tinkering, and reworking until an agent says, “Yes, I want it!” And then…and only then, will I hand over book 1 and truly start this whole process over again on book 2.

Dear lord above, the old gods and the new….please let book 2 be easier than book 1.

In the mean time, I have realized that I do indeed have a grumpy puppy. Look at this face!

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Is it, or is it not; that is the ultimate question

I find myself often listening to YA and NA book genres and thinking, “Yes this is what I’ve been told my novel series is, but my story isn’t anything like this. How can my novel series be considered either of these options?”

I am struggling a bit in the category of what genre my book is. Granted, all the descriptions point to a Fantasy/Adventure New Adult….I feel my novel is absolutely fantasy and adventure but no where near the new adult or young adult category that everyone keeps telling me it should be.

Not that I look down on those genres, there are a TON of very successful authors that write YA and NA, I just don’t feel that my novel fits into the structure. Here’s why:

  • Every time I read a NA or YA book, I feel the plot is centered around the mindset of one single (and typically female) character. You follow their thoughts, their character arch, and their achievements and setbacks. Very few NA / YA stories I have read take into account the thoughts, feelings, mindset, and feelings from the other characters point of view. The few I have read that DO take the mindset of the other characters in mind didn’t do it all that successfully.
  • Most YA / NA books are first person perspective. That makes sense in wanting to follow the inner dialogue of the character, but for my point of view it just doesn’t make sense.
  • My main character isn’t the most beautiful, amazing, perfect person. She’s quite angry and confused with her life and the events that are happening. There is more of an internal struggle at hand that an emotional romantic issue.

Now, this isn’t me hating on YA or NA, not AT ALL! I love the stories I have read (save for one book series that I love, that ended up HATING by the final installment of the series. That one will remain nameless because I would never talk trash on another writer).  The issue that I see my entire book series more as an epic fantasy adventure rather than a YA / NA book series. The issue….I have been told time and time again to NOT write a book that is over 130K words. Which, if I was to be completely honest, I don’t feel that I NEED more than 120K words to get the story to where I’d like it to be. But have you ever read an epic fantasy that isn’t a tomb?

Praetorian Rising follows the same story structure as Terry Goodkind’s Sword of Truth, and J.R.R. Tolkiens Lord of the Rings. There is a semblance of The Hunger Games in my novel, but only in the structure of world building not so much in the style of writing.

I know this is something I should have solidly locked down, but I just can’t seem to bring myself to fully accept that I am a YA or NA writer. So far I haven’t had an agent grab at my series either, so maybe they read my book and they think….’no, this is totally NOT YA or NA. This author has no idea what she is saying.’

What I listed my novel as for the moment when sending out to possible agents; Fantasy/ Adventure NA. Is this correct? I have no f’ing clue.

shrug

The Dude…He Abides

Today at work has been a bit rough, rushing through a mad delivery. Then I look at pictures of my cute adorable pug The Dude and all is right again in the world.

Back to work. I have three more queries out into the ether, that is a success for today! Tomorrow I plan on starting in on Book 2 of the Praetorian Rising series. As my editor would say: “Don’t stop writing just because you are in query mode. Now is the time to write book 2, 3 and 4!”

 

Rejection Letter 19

I’m on rejection number 19. I know, not too many at all you say! But, I have sent out over 50 queries, and have ONLY received 19 rejections. That is a win, in some regards. I do honestly find enlightenment and encouragement in getting these rejections. I am getting closer, I can feel it.

This morning I received the most uplifting rejection so far and I wanted to share this with you:

Thank you so much for allowing our agency to consider your material. Unfortunately, after carefully reviewing your query, we’ve determined that this particular project isn’t the right fit for our agency at this time.  As I’m sure you know, the publishing industry changes swiftly now, as do readers’ tastes and trends. As a result, our own agents’ needs shift and change, as well; therefore, we would like to encourage you to consider querying us with future projects as you may deem appropriate. 

 Again, thank you very much for allowing us this chance to consider your material, and we wish you all the best in your publishing endeavors.

 Sincerely,

– The peeps that sent me a rejection 🙂 Because I am not going to name them!

Now full disclosure, I don’t think it was my novel so much as the query and the noted genre that I listed. This is where I am even having a bit of an internal struggle. Most would classify my book as New Adult Fantasy, some might consider it YA but I HATE to do that. The YA river of books getting published is just flooded with new content almost every day. I feel like in so many ways everyone is a bit tired of YA and they want something new. I feel like I have something new but unfortunately it has too many qualities of New Adult (which is a small difference from YA) to be considered something that is “different”.

For reference, here is my query:

Dear (Un-named Agent),

I’m currently seeking representation for my young adult fantasy novel, PRAETORIAN RISING. My manuscript is complete at 99,000 words and is the first in a planned series. Told in the distinctive voice of both protagonist and dynamic characters, PRAETORIAN RISING will appeal to fans of Sarah J. Maas and Marissa Meyer.

After waking in Sierra Village, a small town within the Kingdom of Aspera, Camille Scipio discovers she has no recollection of her previous life. She soon finds that despite the loss of her past, she has an exceptional range of extraordinary talents in fighting, hunting, and self-defense that speak of a possible dangerous path. After an attack on her village by a mysterious beast, Camille learns the truth of her identity; she is a genetically enhanced assassin; a Praetorian. Having little say in her trajectory, she is pulled into a crumbling rebellion against the tyrannical High King of Aspera, joining Vesyon Vestra, a mysterious friend of her family and Theo Shaehy, the self-proclaimed love of her past. Struggling to understand her place within the ranks of the rebellion, Camille is confronted with the horrors of her past deeds and the possibility of losing herself to an overwhelming darkness within. She must soon make a choice; loyalty to those fighting against the oppressive High King or succumbing to the crazed monster within and forging her own path.

Thank you so much for considering my submission, I look forward to hearing from you. 

Sincerely,
Jessica McSpadden

Now over all, I do believe there are some changes to be made to my query letter, the number one being that I don’t have anything for a bio. Most talk about their writing or publishing achievements but I am so green that I don’t have any achievements to speak of.

They said writing would be hard, they said that working on a novel is a very solo experience and overall it’s one of the biggest struggle in any writers life. I can agree with this. There is nothing I can do to change anyone’s mind. I have to just hope and pray that someone will see me for what my story is. Someone will see the gold mine, someone will discover what world I have created and think, “I finally found the one that will go the distance!”

Then I shrug and remember that at the end of the day it’s not about ultimate glory, I only want to know that there are people out there reading a story that I am very incredibly passionate about and maybe they will find passion in this story and these characters just as much as I have.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 (Un-named Agent),

I’m currently seeking representation for my young adult fantasy novel, PRAETORIAN RISING. My manuscript is complete at 99,000 words and is the first in a planned series. Told in the distinctive voice of both protagonist and dynamic characters, PRAETORIAN RISING will appeal to fans of Sarah J. Maas and Marissa Meyer.

    

After waking in Sierra Village, a small town within the Kingdom of Aspera, Camille Scipio discovers she has no recollection of her previous life. She soon finds that despite the loss of her past, she has an exceptional range of extraordinary talents in fighting, hunting, and self-defense that speak of a possible dangerous path. After an attack on her village by a mysterious beast, Camille learns the truth of her identity; she is a genetically enhanced assassin; a Praetorian. Having little say in her trajectory, she is pulled into a crumbling rebellion against the tyrannical High King of Aspera, joining Vesyon Vestra, a mysterious friend of her family and Theo Shaehy, the self-proclaimed love of her past. Struggling to understand her place within the ranks of the rebellion, Camille is confronted with the horrors of her past deeds and the possibility of losing herself to an overwhelming darkness within. She must soon make a choice; loyalty to those fighting against the oppressive High King or succumbing to the crazed monster within and forging her own path.

Thank you so much for considering my submission, I look forward to hearing from you. 

Sincerely,

Jessica McSpadden